In a post below, I commented yet again that the Showcase Code needs reform in order to reflect the changing economics and realities of theatre in New York City. Posed was a question that seems so obvious that I'd basically overlooked it... here it is, from Commentor David D. (You can see his entire post and the original discussion here.)
"I have mixed feelings about Showcase Code in New York City- I do think that there could be more middle steps between Showcase and the Off-Broadway contract, which is currently too large of a gap.
But I do feel like this question needs to be posed: I am not trying to put myself out of work, or-- well out of Showcase, at least-- but as Showcase Code keeps being raised as the Bugbear of the indie theatre scene, I think we need to stop and ask: Why do you have to have Equity actors in your show? If the play or the theatrical concept (I suppose the latter term I am using to cover things like Improv or Alternative comedy stage shows), if what you have for the audience is original and interesting enough to carry more than 16 performances and the production is not being produced just to Showcase actors seeking representation or paid work but rather to launch a new play or piece, then why not do it without Equity members?"
I think this is worthy of a discussion: What do Indie Theatre producers stand to gain by using Equity actors? The "Showcase Code" was designed to treat all less than scale paying jobs simply as opportunities for actors to show off their wares to agents. That intent may be a far cry from what the Showcase Code has become in practice in 2006, but the rules still essentially say "Pay the actors or do not use them." Fair enough.
James Comtois recently used an all Non-Equity cast, which means "Nervous Boy" can be seen again this year without an issue. "The Most Wonderful Love" had five Equity members in a cast of nine, which means it can't be seen again in this form for one year in New York City (as far as I understand.) I don't regret a single casting choice: I regret that we couldn't build the show further from the momentum it had started to gather, for myself, and for the cast.
For the sake of discussion, what would happen if Indie producers stopped using Equity actors entirely tomorrow? A complete moratorium on Equity actors, so that shows could run more than 16 performances without penalties. Would Actor's working outside of any union restrictions find themselves repeated taken advantage of? Would the union lose members because the ability to perform in New York would be limited by Equity membership? Would the scale of the Summer Festival scene (The Brick's Annual Festival, the Midtown International Fringe Festival, the Fringe Festival, etc.) be massively reduced, for example? Who would suffer more...Equity actors or Producers, Directors and Playwrights?
Let's talk about this.
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.